Armed soldiers in Zimbabwe stormed a private medical facility to assault and arrest wounded patients accused of participating in recent anti-government protests, a local NGO revealed over the weekend, warning of potentially “massive crimes against humanity” at the hands of the government.
On Sunday, National Transitional Justice Working Group (NTJWG) sounded the alarm on human rights violations by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration and his ruling Zanu PF party.
The group noted that human rights violations are occurring “in the context of multiple random home invasions and beatings.”
“People sleeping in their homes are being pursued by the military, the police, and Zanu PF militia, and fished out of their homes, women raped and men tortured,” it added.
The Mnangagwa administration is also persecuting doctors for treating people accused of participating in the protests, which the NGO believes has so far left 12 people dead, dozens missing, hundreds wounded, and over 600 in prison.
Human rights doctors who have been treating the wounded are now in hiding as the state is hunting them down for treating victims of military and police brutality which has resulted in several deaths and injuries to civilians
Victims are not safe when receiving medical care. On 21 January 2019, the soldiers stormed a private medical facility where 28 victims of military brutality were receiving treatment and further assaulted and arrested them.
According to the New Zimbabwe newspaper, the army crackdown on the private facility forced doctors to “abandon wounded victims” of government brutality “in the middle of treatment.”
The soldiers dragged victims “off surgical beds,” New Zimbabwe reported.
Last month, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC), a constitutional body established by the country’s government, accused the nation’s police and military of using “systematic torture” against mainly young men during the demonstrations.
Economic reforms, notably a hike in fuel prices, triggered the demonstrations, which in turn prompted rampant looting and food shortages.
NTJWG urged the international community to intervene, expressing shock on Sunday over the developments in the past week.
The NGO said:
We hereby raise the red flag that, unless urgent measures are taken, we may be on the brink, if not already, of massive crimes against humanity as the military and police continue with violations against the civilian population, opposition activists, and civil society leaders since 14 January 2019 fuel protests.
There is a need for action. The world must condemn and stop the atrocities taking place in Zimbabwe. We argue that a critical threshold has been reached. The current events strongly suggest that crimes against humanity have been committed; the violations are widespread, systematic and in pursuance of a political objective, and demand both investigation and accountability.
NTJWG goes on to note that the government unleashed the crackdown in the wake of the demonstrations, mainly targeting civilians accused of participating in the protests.
The group added:
A sustained campaign of human rights violations targeted at civilian populations across the country has led to deaths, displacements, torture, and assault of hundreds. Human rights organizations recently reported allegations of rape against over 15 women in Epworth, Hopley, and Bulawayo.
Last week, federal police in Zimbabwe confirmed the arrest of “36 children” accused of participating in the recent wave of deadly violence that has plagued some parts of the African country.
The ruling Zanu PF party and the MDC Alliance opposition have been blaming one another for the violence in the country.
President Mnangagwa has defended his administration’s actions following the protests.
Via Twitter, the president declared, “It was the right thing to do. … Chaos and insubordination will not be tolerated. Misconduct will be investigated. If required, heads will roll.”
The Mnangagwa administration is “determined” to press on with the economic reforms despite the bloody protests, a move that is likely to prolong the chaos,” Zimbabwe’s Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube recently told the Agence France-Presse (AFP).